Memorial Day – Lest we Forget

Today is an important day – one where we recognize all the service men and women whom have stepped up and put their lives on the line in order to service our nation and protect our country.  No matter your view of war or our country, let it not be forgotten the sacrifice and dedication of these individuals and let us not forget our obligation to make sure their needs are not ignored nor are they shortchanged.  In particular, those people who have taken up the cause in Afghanistan and Iraq should be in particular focus.  Never have we seen the this large a percentage of active forces who have returned injured and disabled.  The backlog of cases is staggering and the outcry is too silent.  In reading some of the statistics and data this morning, I’m was blown away by the devastation to people’s lives and the amount of money we give for someone 100% disabled.  Take a guess and I expect you will find yourself equally astounded.  For current service people who are deemed 100% disabled, they are given less than $2,800 a month.  In consideration of what these men and women have done and their level of sacrifice, this is a sin beyond belief.  We should look long and hard at our values as a nation.  Whether for or against the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, this should be a rally point for our people – Memorial Day should always evoke more than patriotism and waving of flags.  It is a time to also put our money where our mouth is.

This should also be a time that invokes remembrance of who got us into these two wars.  It is amazing that aside from the degree of damage and destruction to the people who fought the wars, the impact on our economy and the long-lasting costs to our country should cause everyone to stop and remember the administration that made the decision to go to war, the administration who lied to everyone, the administration with an obvious personal agenda – it is the administration that should be tagged as it deserves for the mayhem and pain that resulted.  But to be honest, it is really about two men who could and should be thought of as war criminals – George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are undoubtedly the worse of the bunch but let’s not forget John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, Karl Rove – the list is long and the competence is short.  What a group of fucking bastards.    This is one of the few areas where I can hope my views as an atheist are wrong – and that they all get to burn in hell.

Mitt as a Leader – not

I’m actually not surprised at the Romney camp (whether they own up to it or not) reaching back into the Republican bag of tricks and resurrecting Reverend Wright as one means to further divide the voters – just in case anyone on the fence who forgot about the rhetoric of an old and out of touch black preacher.  Those voters need reminding of how anti-white Obama really is.  However, I do find it a bit much Arizona’s secretary of state, Ken Bennett, announced last week he had asked officials in Hawaii to verify that Barack Obama was born in their state in order for the president’s name to appear on the November ballot in Arizona.  While we can dismiss (to some extent) Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio’s investigation into whether Obama’s birth certificate was real or not since he is 79 years old, lives in Arizona (obviously a state of great thinkers) and has probably taken a few knocks to the head in administering his brand of justice, Bennett is a different story.  As Romney’s campaign co-chairman in Arizona, he has obviously taken a stupid pill even if he gets most to believe he doesn’t really believe Obama wasn’t born in the US and that he made the request on behalf of a constituent.  Is it politically motivated?  Without a doubt.  But the larger issue here is the response (or lack there of) of the Republican leadership, more importantly Mitt.  The lack of any outright repudiation of this action of Bennet’s by Romney again demonstrates his lack of thinking on his own instead chosing to pander to the obvious small but vocal coalition of crazies – aka the Tea Party.  No balls, no independent thinking, no sense of what is right but a honed skill at playing  to the latest or loudest – definitely qualities we want in a President.   We already have weak and ineffective Republican leadership (Boehner) who can’t seem to stand up to the small but loud members of the Tea Party – adding a President that lacks the same backbone will lead us down this path to the past even quicker.  Can you say “Recession 2013”?

The “Master” at re-invention

As for Sheriff Joe – I’d suggest he spend some time investigating those people who continue to hold true that there was a Holocaust, the US did land on the moon and that Elvis is dead.  Hopefully, the fact that U.S. Justice Department are planning to sue Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office over allegations of civil rights violations, including the racial profiling of Latinos, won’t get in the way.

Memories and Remembrances

A couple of days ago, I bought a new car.  Not really a big deal in the larger sense but this one was a little different – more so for the cars we got rid of and not what we purchased.  Like most things in life, there is a lesson or something deeper in most any event or change if we just pay attention.  In this case, we had decided it was time to replace our aging and high mileage SUV with something we could reasonably move into retirement (still a couple of years away) with so we wouldn’t need to have that expense hanging there and it would better position us for replacement of my wife’s car in the next couple of years.  On the surface, this was merely a trade of two older cars for one new.  It made financial sense as adding a large car payment at this time isn’t in our plan.  One vehicle was a 2006 Saab 9-7X with 145K miles on it.  The other a 2010 Nissan 370Z with less than 10K on it.  From my vantage point, the loss of the 370Z was the larger loss – not huge and at this time last year I would have never even considered it.  Interesting what a difference a year can make.  The decision came to me for several reasons, none which most anyone else would care about and several would probably be looked at with a quizzical squint and a “you’ve got to be kidding” mumbled softly.  Bottom line, when it came to it, it felt right in my heart – as well as my head.  I learned to trust that a long time ago.  While there is much to miss with the Z, there is much less today than when I got it.  It served the purpose intended.  But that is not the point here.  It provided me some great feelings and was basically an adult toy – and it kind of meant, for us, we had achieved something special that we were able to buy it.

The Saab 9-7X is another matter.  This car was my workhorse.  It was a very nice SUV when we got it – it had more bells and whistles than I had ever had in a car before.  It became the vehicle that did everything and went everywhere.  It moved kids to and from college, from living home to first apartments, from barn to horse show, from Home Depot and Lowes back to our house – there was little I couldn’t get into the car and very few things I was unwilling to put in it.  It took me around the Northeast as I went from one client site to all my others and back again.  It was reliable and really never let me down.  It was never babied and I hauled everything imaginable in it.  In many ways, it had more personality than the Z.

So who really cares about this and why do I think it is worth sharing?  I share this due to another aspect of our car buying experience yesterday – the part that was really about the feelings behind the obvious part of trading in something old to get something new.  To me (in my usual sense), it was more looking forward as I have a new vehicle to learn about and experience.  I only saw positive.  For my wife, it was a tough day – and ultimately for all the reasons I love her as I do and feel lucky and proud she chose to spend her life with me.  To her, the day was not to celebrate the new car – even though she was obviously happy I was happy.  For her, there was a loss – one across a couple of dimensions.  There were tears, and more tears.   A little embarrassment (not necessary) and some apologies (also not necessary) to the car salesman – I saw neither as needed as it was clear to me what was going on.  It was really the loss of something beyond the cars – much deeper and much more understandable in the larger sense.  It was really about us moving on and leaving something that was important and vital in our lives together.  The cars represented another segment of our life as a family of four and our growth and experience together.  It was about college moves, the barn and Bear, mulching the yard, ice cream sitting in a convertible on a warm summer night. It was about the daily rides that Gunther demanded.  It was about both kids no longer really being kids – as they found their way moving into being full-fledged adults.  It was about us really becoming empty nesters (at least for a while) and the feelings and opportunities that only existed for us before children over 28 years ago.  While the timeframes these cars spanned definitely had its share of challenges, it was really about how good our lives have been at each phase.  In many ways, the tears are very understandable.  We’ve been through this previously – in other situations where something that was central in our life was changed and a flood of memories resulted.  Each time, we’ve sat and talked about the time and the events connected to the change.  There are always numerous “Remember when….” and together we could re-experience that time together – sometimes with tears but more often with laughter and smiles.  We don’t live in the past but it is important to embrace what the past has been about and often how it helps define today.  Maybe we are lucky that we have a considerable amount to embrace.  But in any case, there is a lesson or two here I think everyone can take note of – it is entirely too easy to get caught up in the moment or to spend too much energy thinking about tomorrow.  The never-ending load of crap out there that can interfere with your life – people, politics, the economy, whatever.  Sometimes it has to and there is always a need to do planning for the future.  But we shouldn’t do it at the cost of losing yesterday.

Stopping to smell the flowers is critical not only for the moment but it is what allows you to retrace paths and flowers from earlier walks – the good and the not so good.  But, again, isn’t that what life is really about.  Cherish when and what you can.


Think about it – hate and intolerance at its best

It has been awhile since I found the time to actually get back out here and do a bit of my usual rant.  With Ricky out of the Republican race I’ve actually been a little less incensed at some of the rhetoric and crap spewing from Mitt.  I had thought that people would begin to see him for what he is and what he stands for but it is becoming increasingly evident that will likely not suffice given the ongoing demonstration of limited intelligence of the vast majority of the American public.  And I’m also reminded that I thought there was no way in hell that Georgy Bush would get elected for a second term – I am reminded of a quote by one of the authors I read extensively in my youth –

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity – Robert A. Heinlein

And even more relevant today –

But back to my current thought on what is turning out to be an area of social consequence that has become increasingly disturbing – both by the views held and the laws passed.  I listen to President Obama finally state the obvious (to many of us) about viewing those in our society are gay as equals across the board.  I watch another southern state (are we seeing a pattern here?  I know where I don’t want to ever live) pass an anti-gay bill.   I then watch Mitt do a commencement speech at Liberty University, founded by those in the religious right.  Might be me but this wasn’t a university that I’ve ever seen as one of the tops in the country but there are many educational institutions which are not among the best that provide students a good education.  The difference here is that I can’t see how this is a well-rounded education – but my opinion only.  In any case, my point is that the item in Mitt’s speech – re-affirming his belief that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman – is one that most thinking people have seen past.  Telling this view to this crowd took no gumption and required no validation beyond the automatic head nodding and hand clapping through the crowd.  He is no Michael Bloomberg who has a set of cajones easily demonstrated by delivering a speech at the University of North Carolina where he directly countered the recently passed law on marriage in the state.  Definitely a man of conviction.  Not Mitt – this again shows Mitt to be a man who basically tells any crowd what they want to hear – is that flip flopping as many accuse him or is it really more a case of a man who really doesn’t have a real thought in his head – he is really the human (and barely so) version of a chameleon.  Is this really what our country needs at this time?  We are used to the general public as essentially cattle being herded at the whims of the leaders they follow but not as often the other way around.  Even Bush attempted to lead – as feeble as it was.  The difference is that Bush was just pretty dumb – I don’t believe Mitt is dumb – he is just clueless and inept.  Again, quite the qualities we need in a potential leader.

One can only hope the time between now and November really shows Mitt for who he is. I’m guessing it will be increasingly difficult as the Obama camp picks the strategic topics that need a firm stance.  I see the deer in the headlights look becoming increasingly popular in Mitt’s speeches.

Now – what audience am I speaking with today?

But the more important point here is the continued view of gays as second class citizens – and that is probably giving many of these anti-gay people more credit than they are due.  The fact that they profess to be so religious is laughable – I ask anyone – who do you know among those who profess to be so pious and living the life set by their religious dogma really lives that life?  Very few in my experience.  To be honest, I’m one of the few – and that is only made possible given my view of the world around me as an atheist.

But no matter your religion, your beliefs, how you think you lead your life, I have to wonder how one ever reaches the point where they can actually take the view that anyone else in our society is not worthy of respect and equal footing – especially when they contribute at equal levels with the rest of us.  You don’t need to like everyone or even want to have them live next door to you – that’s okay – I sure don’t.   But I’m not looking to take way their civil rights and liberties.  I’ve made the point before that it isn’t 1955 any more, women can vote and civil rights are a given (at least in our laws).  To treat gays differently is unacceptable in this day and age.  The older generation (another bit of slick marketing is their designation as “the greatest generation” by Tom Brokaw, a dumb shit at best – “the neediest generation” is more apropos) needs to take a lesson from our youth who are less likely to see race, color, sexual orientation as something that needs much extra thought.  But it not just the older people but more disturbing the number of baby boomers who profess such intolerance.   It is despicable and speaks volumes of the type of people we live with in this country.  Even more amazing is that not one of these people is more than 1 degree separated from someone who is gay.  In fact many of them walk that fine line themselves, so aptly demonstrated by many of the politicians and religious leaders whom have found themselves having to explain themselves – hence the degree of intensity.  Bottom line, the gay citizens many are so quick to push to the side are our sons and daughters, our aunts and uncles, our neighbors, our teachers, our police and firemen, etc., etc.  Get it? – it is really about people we love and care about when we look beyond the sexual aspect on which most anti-gay people perseverate.  How can you be so rigid and unfeeling?  My guess is that these are people with some severe (or at least moderately severe) sexual dysfunction or they wouldn’t be so threatened so quickly.  To my fellow baby boomers – what the hell happened to you that you forgot what the 60’s was about?  Different decade, pretty much the same issues.  Oh, now I remember, you were the ones sitting in your rooms with your head in a book all week and then on Friday and Saturday nights you went on your binge drinking and showed the beginnings of the asshole you would eventually grow into as you let the alcohol quickly dim your hangups and insecurities.

Apologies for the rambling nature of this – I’d like to think I’m usually a bit more structured and to the point.  However, this topic is one that hits home as my son is gay.  But beyond that I have had many friends and people I know who are gay – my best man in my wedding over 30 years ago was gay – and I knew it and didn’t really care.   Am I ever a bit biased? – not really given that despite my sometimes intolerance of others, it is typically not against an entire class of people.  I will admit that there are parts of any group – be it race, ethnicity, age, whatever – that bug me.  And I have no issue saying that stupid people are pretty much useless – no matter their color, religion, sexual orientation, whatever. What having a gay son has taught me is a much better understanding of what they tolerate every day – and how much intolerance can hurt and how difficult it can make life.  While both my kids (now adults) have demonstrated success so far and I am phenomenally proud of both of them – they are both pretty amazing in their own ways, I look back at the added burden my son dealt with going thru school and I hurt inside when I think of what he tolerated through all those years.

I’m ecstatic when I see his friends who are with him still and don’t see him any different from anyone else.  He, like any individual, is made up of more than the single sexual dimension so many are focused on.   I can only wish a slow and agonizing remainder of life to those who are so quick and easy to deny him his rights.  No doubt there are those who will read this (assuming anyone does), dismss it without a thought and continue to see my son as less than human – well to all of you I say “Sieg Heils”.  You are in great company.

One parting thought on Romney – if he truly was the high school bully he has been accused of being, that is bad enough.  Add the gay aspect to the bullying and it becomes a whole other issue.   We can forgive some past transgressions (well, to some extent) but at least own up to it when called out.  To play the “I don’t remember” card is less than credible – but then again, maybe Mitt has a bit more Ronald Reagan in him than was thought!